The journey is over for Tauranga City in the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup.
A 6-2 defeat to Western Springs has brought their progress in the knockout competition to a shuddering halt.
It was perhaps a harsh scoreline on the home side, who had their fair share of chances, but ultimately reflected the superior class, cohesion and organisation the visiting Northern League Premiership division outfit brought to the game.
City’s preparation for the match was less than ideal with regular skipper Ray How serving a suspension, and injuries either ruling out or restricting the contribution of key players.
The Auckland outfit’s Meysum Shafahi put his side ahead in the 12th minute finishing powerfully when the ball broke to him in a goalmouth scramble, but the early ascendency could easily have gone the other way.
Attacking midfielder Andy Carter had a prime opportunity after two minutes to finish an incisive move down the right and give his team a chance to settle into the match with a lead on the board, but couldn’t keep his shot under the bar.
City’s bright start continued, but the visitors’ opening goal put it on hold, and enabled them to settle on the ball and take a measure of control.
Two goals to Springs’ skipper Adam Dickinson left the home side a substantial hill to climb, which became a mountain by halftime when a cross from the left from Kieran Richards turned into a shot which drifted over diving City goalkeeper Tom Pamment’s outstretched left hand and into the top corner.
The home side’s best chance to get back into the game came when stand-in striker Sam O’Regan, who normally occupies a deeper midfield role but moved forward in an effort to make best use of his injury-enforced restricted mobility, picked up the ball in the middle of the park and found some space to bring it forward to the penalty box. Some rare defensive disorganisation from the Aucklanders allowed O’Regan to get his shot away, but unfortunately for him it went wide.
It did signal something of a revival for his side though. Andy Carter, Josh Nelson and Riley Bidois managed to fashion chances before halftime but all either drifted wide or into Springs’ goalkeeper Toshiaki Narita’s hands.
The home side’s continued efforts to earn some measure of respectability in the second spell resumed backfired on them initially, as Liam Mulrooney added a fortuitous fifth via a nasty deflection which left Pamment wrong-footed. Shafahi then had his second and his team’s sixth with the easiest of finishes as he found himself unmarked in the box.
City’s second half lift was producing results, however, as Andy Carter and Jay Silcock brought diving saves from the keeper. Then came their best move of the game as Silcock flicked on an Andy Smith cross with his head into the path of Bidois, but his shot flashed over the bar.
On 32 minutes reward finally came when Luke Woolerton drove to the byeline and crossed towards goal. Visiting goalkeeper Narita should have tidied it up easily but instead fumbled it over the line.
As the match moved into added time O’Regan earned some payback for an industrious game with a headed goal from a Smith cross.
“The first 30 minutes made the rest of the day an uphill battle,” thought City’s head coach Nic Millichip.
“In the opening minutes in the go forward and through the midfield - that was quite creative and I think there was a bit of promise there. But we let ourselves down in the wide areas and they got round us and finished.
“Then in the second half we actually came out and played a bit and then made one critical error to hand one away.
“The momentum turned though I think and we did have that last 20 minutes where we started to look a lot better in what we were doing.”
Western Springs’ coach, former All White Chris Zoricich, agreed his team’s experience playing at a higher level made a difference.
“Yeah I think so, I was quite happy with the first half. They managed well and killed the game off there.
“Very happy with the result.”
Getting over the injuries which unsettled his team’s lineup for the match and looking ahead for the remainder of their Northern League Division 1 season is the priority for Nic.
“We focus on the league now, we move forward.”
ISPS Handa Chatham Cup third round tie at Links Ave Sunday 24 June:
Tauranga City 2 (OG, Sam O’Regan)
Western Springs 6 (Meysum Shafahi 2, Adam Dickinson 2, Kieran Richards, Liam Mulrooney)